In case you haven't heard, we live in a new golden age of old-fashioned orc-mugging and tomb-robbing. There are now, in print, more good options for dungeoning and dragoning than we've seen since the eighties. For reals. As self-appointed guardian of face-rocking hack-n-slashery, I have decided to provide an easy-to-use overview of the field as it stands today. You're welcome.
The Basic Deal: Basic/Expert D&D tweaked for an AD&D audience.
Where You Can Get It: The rulebook is a free download at the publisher's website or you can get a print rulebook at lulu.
Why pick this one? Perfect for the AD&D player who appreciates the simplicity of Basic D&D, but dislikes some of the stupider parts of the Basic game. Race and class are split, as per AD&D, no funky elf class. And clerics get a spell at first level.
The Basic Deal: Pretty much a clone of the Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert rules.
Where You Can Get It: Free download here or print edition at lulu.
Why pick this one? The 1981 Basic/Expert set is pretty much the perfect iteration of D&D. Seriously, I was just discussing on an old school forum that these rules are so good that they discourage homebrewing and tinkering. Labyrinth Lord takes those two books and seemlessly integrates them into a single text, arguably making this game the Best RPG Ever Written.
The Basic Deal: An Open Game License version of 1st edition AD&D.
Where You Can Get It: Free download at the official webpage.
Why pick this one? If 1st ed. AD&D is your thing, but you don't own the books, OSRIC is a supercheap way to get back into the game. Or if you still dream of publishing a 1st edition module, here's the OGL way to get it done. Does your game group think playing out-of-print games is retarded? Go to Kinko's, get a hardcopy of this printed out, and then beat them with it.
The Basic Deal: The World's Easiest D20 Fantasy System.
Where You Can Get It: The official homepage.
Why pick this one? If you got a smaller rulebook you'd need a magnifying glass to play. The rules will fit in your wallet! Next time one of the indie fans in your group starts nattering on about rules-light gaming pull this puppy out. And you won't cry when you spill soda on your copy, 'cause the little sucker is just one sheet of paper.
Castles & Crusades
The Basic Deal: The love child of 1st edition AD&D and the new d20 stuff.
Where You Can Get It: Your local FLGS or favorite online store or direct from the publisher.
Why pick this one? If you miss most of the fiddly bits of 1st edition chargen but also like the clean resolution mechanics of more modern games, then this might be the right choice. Well-supported with modules, too.
The Basic Deal: AD&D, only more so. More dice charts, more violence, more ridiculousness.
Where You Can Get It: This ones a little trickier, as the print runs on the core books are drying up. You may need to do some online hunting to get everything you need. I'm still putting together my set. Amazon has a bunch of this stuff, so I'd recommend starting there.
Why pick this one? This is the first game I've seen since RoleMaster that takes AD&D's formula of crunchy violence and makes something even better with it. If you've ever been deep into either edition of AD&D and thought "Man, this isn't hardcore enough" then, bing!, you just found your new favorite system.
The Basic Deal: You remember that chapter in the DMG that gave the rules for combining AD&D and Gamma World? This game is like that, only sexier.
Where You Can Get It: Click this link now. Enlightenment will follow.
Why pick this one? Of all the Retro Stupid games out there, this one is the retro stupidest. In all seriousness, if you are a regular Gameblog reader, do yourself a favor: Get the free PDF version of the rules and sit down somewhere and read them. Do not skim. You'll miss much of the awesome.
Mazes & Minotaurs
The Basic Deal: What if Gygax and Arneson liked Jason and the Argonauts type movies more than The Lord of the Rings?
Where You Can Get It: Free downloads here.
Why pick this one? If you dig the old school dungeon scene but want a change of pace from medieval times, this is your huckleberry. And the mechanics are super-tight. Also, you can pitch the game to newbies as "like Xena".
The Basic Deal: One man's house rules that elegantly expand the original basic set.
Where You Can Get It: Direct link. You'll also need a 'blue book' Basic D&D (pictured left).
Why pick this one? In four pages the author manages to capture the essence of the Advanced experience without a lot of the cruft. I'm going to go ahead and write the inexplicable words Rules-Light AD&D.
Why not just play the old stuff?
An excellent question! If you're already rocking an older game, please don't stop on my account. I just wanted to bring together all the various links I had to some of the crazy new stuff that supports dungeoncrawling.